President Volodymyr Zelensky’s close friend and personal aide, Andriy Yermak, is also his point man for international negotiations, especially with the U.S. and Russia.
But who is Yermak? And how far does his influence extend?
The adviser was already under scrutiny following the explosive revelations of his talks with U.S. political operatives that wanted to draw Ukraine into a politically-motivated investigation of the U.S. president’s likely rival in the upcoming 2020 elections.
Now, the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty program Schemes has dug up company records allegedly connecting Yermak to businesses in Moscow, and Russian officials close to Putin.
The investigation, called “Yermak’s Formula,” casts additional suspicion on Yermak in light of Ukraine’s recent agreement to adopt the controversial Steinmeier Formula, that many commentators say will benefit Russia.
Yermak famously headed up the Ukrainian side of the Sept. 7 prisoner swap between Ukraine and Russia, when the two countries each gave the other 35 captives — hundreds of Ukrainians remain in Russian hands.
Yermak also attended the Normandy Format negotiations as the president’s representative, alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Vadym Prystaiko in early September. Vladislav Surkov, the adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin, represented the Russian Federation.
In becoming a main negotiator with Russia, Yermak replaced opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk, who had previously served as Kyiv’s unofficial intermediary with the Kremlin.
And infamously, Yermak was the man who spoke with former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker and U.S. President Donald Trump lawyer and agent Rudolph Giuliani. Yermak was the point of contact for an apparent scheme by these U.S. officials to pressure Zelensky and his government to investigate Trump’s political rival, former vice president Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
According to Volker’s text messages presented to the U.S. Congress, Yermak told Volker that Ukraine was preparing to launch an investigation into the company where Hunter Biden worked. He also said there would be an investigation into Trump’s allegations of Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 U.S. elections, a conspiracy theory that has been widely debunked.
Before he got his job as Zelensky’s aide, Yermak was a copyright lawyer for the past 20 years. He represented media companies, including the television channel Inter owned by the notorious oligarch accused of bribery, Dmytro Firtash. He also worked with Zelensky’s Kvartal 95. Yermak is a founder of Garnet Media Group, which produces Ukrainian films and TV shows.
He once served as an aide to wrestler and lawmaker Elbrus Tedeyev between 2006 and 2014. Tedeyev won an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and later became a lawmaker for the now disbanded Party of Regions, led by ousted President Viktor Yanukovych.
Yermak and Zelensky have both publicly acknowledged each other as friends and left humorous Facebook comments to one another over the years.
According to Ukrainian database YouControl, Yermak is the founder or beneficiary of 19 companies in legal services, pharmaceuticals, security, consulting and others.
Yermak is the beneficiary of a Ukrainian media company called the European Partnership Media Group along with Russian citizen Rahamim Emanuilov, a political commentator and head of multiple foundations in Russia. Yermak and Emanuilov are also co-beneficiaries of two other Ukrainian companies, Interpromfinance and MEP.
According to Schemes’ review of Russian company databases, Emanuilov is the beneficiary of Russian company Interpromtorg, which is a stakeholder of Russia’s Interprobank. Other stakeholders in this bank include people from the upper levels of Russia’s government.
One of Interprombank’s key stakeholders is Valeriy Ponomarev, a member of the Russian senate from the Kamchatka region. According to Russian activist Alexei Navalny, his daughter is the owner of a Spanish mansion that media reported to have been Putin’s.
One of Interprombank’s board members is Ivan Sadchikov, the son in law of the first deputy chief of staff of the Russian government, Sergei Prikhodko. Another two board members, Ilham Ragimov and Nikolai Egorov, were once Putin’s classmates, Schemes reported.
Schemes quoted Yermak’s press service as saying that Emanuilov was an old friend of his father’s, whom he met in Afghanistan. Yermak said that in 1999, he helped Emanuilov register a company in Ukraine because Emanuilov wanted to engage in consulting work. Yermak was quoted as saying that the company did not conduct any business and claimed that the last time he spoke to Emanuilov was 10 years ago, when he wished him happy birthday over the phone.
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